To read through Genesis 1 and 2, it's understandable to conclude they refer to two different creation accounts. Genesis 1 records the creation and development of the world: light and dark on day one, the sky and water on day two, separation of land and water plus vegetation on day three, stars and the moon on day four, animals on days five and six, and finally the first man and woman on day six. Genesis 2 starts immediately with God resting on the seventh day, then says that there were no bushes of the field. After this observation, God creates Adam, has him name the animals, and then takes Eve from Adam's side.
Do Genesis 1 and 2 record two different creation accounts?
How can this be? Are the Adam and Eve in Genesis 1 (as some theistic-evolutionists believe) man-like Neanderthals from whom God chose Adam to give the first soul? Did God create Adam in the years or millennia after the six days of creation? How do the two chapters mesh?
When was Adam made?
Genesis 2:1-3 states that after God created the heavens and the earth and all the "host of them," He rested on the seventh day. The next section talks about how He made Adam and Eve. So did God make Adam and Eve after the seventh day?
The first thing to remember is that the book of Genesis was not written with chapters and verses. It was written as a solid text. The division of chapter 1 between "And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day," and "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them," is artificial. Scholars broke up the Bible text into chapters and verses so it would be easier for us to find what we're looking for. It doesn't mean that the seventh day belongs in the same breath as the creation of Adam and Eve. In fact, it would have been better, perhaps, to put the chapter break between Genesis 2:3 and Genesis 2:4.
That still puts the account of the creation of Adam after the seventh day — in the text. That doesn't necessitate Adam's creation was after the seventh day chronologically. It is common in non-fictional accounts to give a summary of a major event, then go back and give specifics as needed. That is what is happening here. Adam and Eve were clearly created on day six, as Genesis 1:26-27 indicate. The account in Genesis 2:4-25 is a more detailed description of what happened on day six.
When were plants made?
If Genesis 2:4-25 occurred during day six, verse 5 becomes problematic. It reads, "When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up — for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground…" It's basically saying there were no bushes or plants in the fields before God created Adam in verse 7. But Genesis 1:11-12 says that God made plants on the third day. What gives?
The key is the phrase "in the field." Genesis 2:5 isn't saying there were no plants before Adam; it's saying there were no cultivated crops because "there was no man to work the ground." Even today we have wild strawberries, asparagus, and grasses. But it takes cultivation to make a field of strawberries or an acre of wheat. After God made Adam from the dust, He planted the Garden of Eden and added some trees. And sometime after that, Adam and his descendants cultivated fields of crops.
When did God create the animals?
Genesis 1:20-25 says that God made the animals on the fifth day, before Adam on the sixth day. Genesis 2:19 in the King James and New American Standard Versions ("…God formed every beast…") seems to say that God created them on the sixth day, after Adam. The English Standard, however, accepts that the Hebrew verb "form" can also be interpreted in the "pluperfect" form, giving the more logical "God had formed every beast…" The point of Genesis 2:19 isn't to give the hour when God made the animals; it's to explain that God did make the animals, and then sent them to Adam to be named.
When was Eve made?
Genesis 1:27-28 seems to indicate that God made Eve on day six, shortly after Adam. But is it a timeline or a poetic afterthought? Because in Genesis 2:19-23, Adam has to name all the animals before God makes Eve. Wouldn't that take more hours than the sixth day had?
Not necessarily. For one, God brought the animals to Adam, presumably in an orderly, efficient fashion (2:19). Second, this was days after the creation of the animals. There was no micro-evolution to form a poodle from a wolf or differentiate the 14,000 different types of ants we have now. As Noah about 2000 years later, Adam only had to work with kinds of animals (Genesis 6:20). Yes, it would have been a long day. But there's no reason to think the perfect man aided by God couldn't do it and still leave time for God to form Eve.
A great many people, including Bible-professing Christians, will insist that Genesis 1 and 2 reflect different creation accounts. Some will say that because the chapters contradict each other the Bible is not infallible. Others will say that the differences allow for a race of pre-humans to exist before the arrival of Adam and Eve. Neither is justified by the text. When the Bible gives an account, the literal translation is always the one we should assume first. Genesis 1:1-2:3 give a summary of creation while Genesis 2:4-25 give details regarding the creation of Adam and Eve.
Does the Bible mention prehistoric men such as cavemen or Neanderthals?
How old is the Earth?
What does old-earth creationism teach?
What is the missing link, and has it been found?
Is theistic evolution biblical? What is theistic evolution?
Truth about Creation